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Original Title:
Yeogo goedam 3: Yeowoo gyedan

South Korea 2003

Horror, Drama

Yun Jae-yeon

Song Ji-hyo
Park Han-byeol
Jo An
Park Ji-yeon
Kwak Ji-min
Hong Su-a
Moon Jung-Hee

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Wishing Stairs

aka Whispering Corridors 3

Story: Jin-sung (Song Ji-hyo) and So-hee (Park Han-byeol) are best friends and go to the same all-girls school. Together the two also attend a ballet course, but the mutual hobby shall soon drive a wedge between them and destroy their relationship. Only one of them can participate in a demonstration, which decides if one is granted a transfer to a renowned russian ballet school. In Jin-sung jealousy creeps in, because So-hee not only is the more beautiful girl of the two, but she is also more skilled in ballet.
Jin-sung hears the story of a stairway in the school, which has exactly 28 stairsteps. However, if you really wish for something there appears a 29th step, on which you can express your wish.
At first, this sounds just like a fairy tale, but Hye-ju (Jo An), who always suffered from her excessive weight, suddenly becomes more slim and thin every day. She tells Jin-sung that a fox spirit appeared on the 29th step and granted her wish.
Jin-sung looks for the steps and finds them. She wishes for her to become the one participating in the ballet demonstration. Still, as things are when it comes to wishes they aren't granted without having a price, too. So-hee has an accident and ends up in hospital. The friendship between the two girls falls apart. Furthermore, there are also some other strange things happening at school...

Review: "Wishing Stairs" is the third installment in the "High School Girl's Ghost Story" aka "Whispering Corridors" series and by far the worst one. The movie's problem without a doubt is the fact that towards the end the film relies too much on your typical Asian horror stuff. We have seen it too many times already, and moreover the shocking effects look especially cheap in this one. The prequels may have been more of a subtle drama than a real horror flick, but they worked so well because of the characters, their relationship and the sociocritical undertone. We see some of that in "Wishing Stairs", too, but it takes a backseat, and more importantly we just get the feeling that old stuff is just getting rehashed. In the end, the movie fails, because it presents itself too much as your standard horror flick, without adding anything new to the genre or the series, and also falters because of its somniferous pacing.

However, at first the movie seems promising. We get introduced to the friendship between Jin-sung and So-hee, learn more about their lives and accompany them on their everyday life at the all-girls school.There isn't really anything outstanding happening, still, the way the friendship is depicted proves fascinating as it surely has a homosexual touch to it. This strongly reminds of "Memento Mori", but it takes a while until we realize how bluntly the movie really borrows from its prequel. Nevertheless, the relationship between the two main protagonists remains the only real strong point in the film. It's interesting to watch the close friendships fall apart because of envy and covetousness. Sadly, this interest can only be kept up during the first half.

Sometime during the second half of the film director Yun Jae-yeon exchanges the supernatural aspect of the movie for a cheap ghost story rip-off. Up until then it was possible, if you wanted to, to explain everything in a more or less scientific way, because the protagonists' frame of mind gave enough ground to work on it. This means that any creepy occurence at the school could had been explained completely rationally. Hye-ju's sudden weight loos, for example, may have been the result of the pills she was taking. The granting of the wishes in general, e.g. the accident in which Jin-sung unintentionally throws her friend down the stairs, could have been explained as subconscious actions, which just were supposed to fulfill her wish. Towards the end, however, there are suddenly ghosts entering the stage, that leave no space for interpretation as they are for real. They crawl through the corridors of the school in typical "Ring"-manner and are supposed to be frightening. But they somehow just can't get the job done...

While the slow pacing may be appropriate at the beginning as it fits into the story, it becomes really tedious at the end where we are presented with tiresome and lengthy scenes, that presumably were intended to be creepy, but are just plain boring in the end. When our protagonist pointlessly runs from corridor to corridor at the school, which is because meanwhile even the scriptwriter seems to have forgotten what the main story thread was exactly about, while the director doesn't know where he wants to go with his film anyway, trying to escape from a haunting ghost, then it's most likely that you will fall asleep every other scene (being short of sleep may be a precondition, though). The fact of the matter is, that the film continuously loses focus during the second half and that the actually short running time is stretched to an almost endless degree.

At least we get some decent portrayals from the actresses, even if Jin-sung can't really work as someone the viewer can relate to, that is because her low feelings of jealousy prevent us from weaving an emotional bond to her.
Jo An's embodiment of Hye-ju with a serious problem of overweight is best described as unintentionally funny. The body suit she wears is everything but convinving, but even worse is her acting. It's one thing to play someone with a low self-esteem, but another to portray a chubby girl in such a dumb, yes even retarded way as it is the case here. This totally misses any point there could have been. It's almost as if the filmmakers really didn't want to cast any positive light on people with overweight. In general, the subplot around Hye-su and her secret love to So-hee also proves to be rather uninventive and dull, at times even contrived.
The emotional and subtle scenes between the two leads are the best in the whole movie, but unfortunately they somewhere along the way just vanish as the movie progresses.

It's also odd that we don't get to see much of the everyday life at school. Instead we are guests at the ballet studio from time to time and even get to see some dancing. Considering the atmosphere, the school setting is quite appealing, but it wouldn't have been difficult to get more out of it, which the director just failed to do.
"Wishing Stairs" is a shallow drama, which just happens to drift into cheap horror realms and then makes use of any stereotyped cliche there is. This leads to the movie looking almost poor towards the end. The question comes to mind why the director didn't stick to the drama element between So-hee and Jin-sung and connected it with a creepy ghost story around stairs that grant wishes. The way it is, "Wishing Stairs" is a nonhomogeneous whole, which becomes a cheap Asian horror flick as it progresses and eventually makes us even sigh in relief when the credits finally hit the screen.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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